Bokoji city. Photo: Visit Oromia
Addis Abeba – Four people were killed in a deadly attack by armed forces over the weekend on two police stations in Bekoji city, in Arsi zone of Oromia regional state, 220 km from the capital Addis Abeba, sources told Addis Standard. The causalities include two policemen, a member of the local militia and a security guard.
Residents of the city, who spoke to Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity for security reasons, reported that the armed forces engaged in heavy gunfire, beginning at 4:00 AM local time on Friday 19 May. The attack occurred barely a week after Bokoji, a city home to Ethiopia’s best known runners, hosted the second edition of the Great Bokoji Run, which was attended by senior federal and regional government officials.
One resident said that a fierce exchange of gunfire erupted at around 4 AM on Friday morning marked by heavy exchange of gunfire. The armed group targeted two police stations located in the city and a branch of Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. The two policemen, a member of the local militia, and a security guard were killed during the assault on one of the two police stations in the city. Eight prisoners were freed from the police station. Although there has been an attempt targeting one of the two Commercial Banks in the city, there are no break ins, the eye witness said.
The prolonged exchange of fire between the armed group and security forces lasted between 4:00 – 7:00 AM, during which the armed forces employed a coordinated attack, dividing themselves into groups. But withdrawing from the city after the arrival of members of defense forces from Asella, the capital of Arsi Zone. Furthermore, the resident mentioned that the security forces relayed information indicating that six out of the eight released prisoners have voluntarily returned to the station the following day. Addis Standard couldn’t independently corroborate the information.
Offering insight into the targeted locations, the resident explained, “Bokoji city has two police stations, one situated in the city center and the other serving the district or rural area. I reside in close proximity to the district police station and could audibly discern the intensity of gunfire directed at the station. Tragically, a policeman and a woman lost their lives during the attack. Additionally, a member of the local militia and a security guard were also among the casualties.”
The anonymous resident further disclosed that the city’s security forces were positioned on standby in the vicinity of the Gallama forest and the Kaka mountain chains in the Eastern of the city, anticipating the arrival armed forces. But that has left few policemen stationed at the police stations. However, the armed group, who are believed to be members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) entered the city of Lemu, some 7 km outside of Bokoji through a different route, catching the city off guard and vulnerable to the attack.
Another resident, known as Samson (alias used for security purposes), described the events of the day as “a terrifying ordeal.” He confirmed that four individuals had been killed, and said with one of victims, the member of the local militia, died after having been taken home.
Despite the intensity of the attacks and the tensions thereof, normal activities have returned to the city. Additional security forces have also been deployed to reinforce the existing security forces in the area.
The residents did not conclusively establish the identity of the attackers, and Addis Standard’s repeated attempts to contact the city police and the mayor’s offices to get more information were unsuccessful. AS